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Opinion: Refund or Not?

Hi all,

Sorry if these sorts of posts are frowned upon, but I wanted to check prior to posting up about the issue further.

So for the most part of this year (initial contact dating basically back to January, with a process in place a month or two afterwards - I'll dig up accurate dates if need be later) I'd paid for, and waited for a custom hoody to arrive. In total, it ended up costing me $340 CAD (more than expected, as when they posted it they noted the shipping was $120 total). Essentially it broke down into $110 for materials, $110 for labour, and $120 for shipping.

To give a timeline, here's a rough idea:



- Initial contact after seeing a friend with one of their hoodies was about Jan-Feb
- Around Feb-Mar they took my name and details, and gave me a quote for one - essentially securing the order
- Not long after they posted a "commission list" up and it showed me not on there at all. I noted them that they had already quoted me and I was ready to pay - and they noted confusion/mistake on their part and put me on the list (albeit about 3 or 4 places down as others had paid). That was OK as I figured the turnaround time would be fine.
- Not long after that I made the first payment of $110 for the materials.
- 1-2 months later I got the next bill for the labour.
- Finally in August, it was complete (the lengthy delay apparently due to them "needing to make hoodies for a con" despite these not being on the list or anything similar)
- August 29th, it ships (after I pay the next lot of money for it).
- ETA was 4-8 weeks. I figure, eh, fair enough - it's big and international.
- About 6-7 weeks pass and I let them know nothing has arrived. They tell me that "at 8 weeks they can escalate it with the post office". I contacted mine but they said they can't do anything until it's in the country.
- 8-9 weeks pass and they hadn't done anything with the post office despite a couple of notes asking for them to get me further details.
- Finally, around November 11th (about 11 weeks later) I see that it's arrived in the country. No word for a few days until I get a letter from customs (more on that below)
- After dealing with customs (a lengthy issue, took about a week), I finally got the item on the 21st of November.
- I contacted them that same day to discuss some issues with the item, haven't had a reply since.

So that's the timeline, here's a bit more about the customs issue:

She lied on the customs declaration form. She stated that the total value (with or without shipping) was $500CAD - about $160 more than the actual cost WITH shipping. Because of this, customs in my country flagged it and sent me a bill for $240~. I enquired with about 8 different customs agents and broke down how it was so much (essentially if the item is over a certain amount - about $250-350, I can't quite recall the maths behind it) - and it appeared to be due to the $500 value, the GST was a huge extra cost, and that caused about $100 of extra fees as well.

I contacted her, and asked for the REAL invoices so I had proof. She vehemently lied about her reasons for over-declaring. She said it was "to protect me". Apparently the policy she set it up under was a dollar for dollar refund if the post lost it. So essentially, she'd get:

- The cost of the materials back
- The cost of her time back
- The cost of the postage back
- +$160

I couldn't fathom how she could try and claim that the extra $160 would "protect me", even if she tried to charge AGAIN for the labour, that'd still be $50 more than it'd be needed to cover.

So essentially, she's trying to scam money from the post office if things go missing (I let the post office know this and they said she'd need to provide proof of invoices so it'd essentially stop the theft - but that wouldn't stop her from forging receipts and the like).

Anyway, I contacted customs and after about 6 calls to them (they messed up twice) and despite constant pleading to see the error of her ways and such, I was only able to knock $100 of the cost of the customs fee. It ended up being about $135 total extra that I needed to pay to get it DELIVERED to me.

I shrugged this off, and waited for it. The item came last Friday...

...and it's not correct. Here's a list of the issues with the item itself:

- There's a frill on the hood part of the hoody - and despite it looking the correct green in the photos, it's black. Like, really really dark black.
- There's two horns on the wings on the back of the hoody, and these are black - also incorrect, none of the references show this (as with the above, I take partial blame for not looking into it further, but was honestly taken aback by the initial preview and the colours of the photos appeared to be correct).
- The measurements are wrong. When I measured myself for all her required figures, I gave her measurements that were several CM bigger than they should have been - and on top of that - asked for her to give a few extra so it would be loose/roomy. It barely fits. It's only JUST long enough. It only JUST fits around when zipped up (and leaving it zipped for too long gets too tight/stuffy).
- I asked a few questions regarding the hood part of it - and whether having the frill on it would be too heavy or make it unwearable on a regular basis. I was ensured that it would be fine. It weighs a LOT. I cannot keep it on my head for too long as it starts hurting after about an hour (or I have to re-adjust it from falling off the back of my head every few minutes).
- On top of this - when I leave the hood part of it hanging off my neck, it hurts my neck just as much - so essentially I have to constantly switch between leaving it on or off.
- The frill is also lopsided and always hangs to one side, causing more need to re-adjust regularly.
- The hems on the connection stitch between the hood and what I assume to be the "zipper area" (my sewing lingo is subpar at best) are frail, and have already started to pull from the sheer weight of the hood piece.
- The pockets on the front are too small. I can only fit half of my hands in each, and my phone has fallen out about 6 times due to it sticking out about halfway unless I jam my hand in there with it.
- She also showed it with a tail. I asked about this as well, as to how it was worn and whether it'd be uncomfortable to sit on. She never mentioned that it was a completely separate piece that needed a belt to wear (I only wear jeans during work, and have minimal desire to redo my belt for a daily "full wear" of the item).

I did also mention some positives to her, being:
- The material is very soft and generally comfortable/warm.
- The other colours were correct.

As mentioned in the timeline above, I sent her this info (in further detail) a week ago, and haven't heard anything from her since. I never asked for a refund or anything, just for her thoughts on the matter.

SO! Here's where you lot come in. What should I do now? Frankly, I've dropped about $500 (converted to my currency) on this item, and the great, unique, amazing thing I expected it to be is very, very subpar. Do I wear it? I have a couple of times. Do I want to wear it more? I would if it fitted better, didn't hurt from regular use, and was the correct colours. It's honestly changed from being what I expected to be my "lounge around at home hoody" and has become a "maybe if I go to a furmeet or for every now and then hoody". And in my opinion, that's not what I paid all that money for. Not to mention the extremely lengthy delay, the unprofessional lying on the value which cause customs issues - and the extra cost that came from said customs issues.

I'm leaning towards asking for a partial refund (like $110 for the labour, I guess), as it's simply not a good result. I'm further upset due to the lack of a response from my feedback. I'd have been happy if they'd even just tried to make it right - as standard customer service would dictate at least an attempt to make the customer's experience better. I don't really -need- the money, but when you pay this much for something and get a sloppy result, it's a bit annoying.

So what do you all think about this? What should I do from here? I'm not mentioning names or putting up full details as per a standard "beware" just yet - as I want to give them a chance to make good on this issue at hand. I'd rather avoid having to just leave bad feedback here and other places and have her somewhat frowned upon, but the result is not really good, and may need that. So any thoughts you have would be great!



PS: I also have another issue. I ordered a YCH from someone on July 21st, and both myself and the others involved had poked the artist for months leading up to November asking for an update (to no avail). From memory (can't check it right now) they've drawn about 35+ items since the YCH ended, and not mine. I contacted them earlier and asked for a refund; they replied saying they'd tried to kill themselves, had just had a breakup, and were struggling so bad that a refund wasn't possible - but they'd try and have the piece done "in a couple of weeks". It's been over a month now as far as I remember, and other pieces have been drawn instead of the YCH. I replied offering condolences regarding the issue, but said I would be somewhat uninterested in the piece, and that it would now be attached to all these issues. They then offered to do an extra drawing to make up for it, which I politely declined (I honestly would feel bad getting more than what I paid for, and would rather just get the drawing out of the way and ignore it or get my money back). I also offered them money if they needed it for emergencies. No replies since, but pictures still go up. Any thoughts on that one? I'd feel bad putting up an A_B on them given their issues, and they were generally really nice apart from this; it's just really slack and I'm kinda annoyed with spending money on things that end up bad or not happening at all. So yeah - any thoughts on THIS one too, would also be great.

Sorry for the huge post - and thanks to any support!

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Comments

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
celestinaketzia
Dec. 1st, 2014 03:58 am (UTC)
MOD POST
Howdy!

This is rather longer than it looked in the moderation queue. Can we please put it in the cut.
happy_radio
Dec. 1st, 2014 07:34 am (UTC)
Re: MOD POST
Apologies - not sure how to cut it down. I'll attempt to get around to it ASAP but am working all week, and can barely get time to reply here letalone edit. Sorry - but I will endeavour ASAP.
celestinaketzia
Dec. 1st, 2014 11:14 am (UTC)
Re: MOD POST
How to do a Livejournal cut is here:
http://www.livejournal.com/support/faq/75.html
happy_radio
Dec. 1st, 2014 11:42 pm (UTC)
Re: MOD POST
Updated! Thanks, and sorry for my ignorance there.
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Dec. 1st, 2014 04:30 am (UTC) - Expand
happy_radio
Dec. 1st, 2014 11:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've informed the post office about their details in case they try doing it with anyone else. I'd rather not pay anymore to send it back, refund or not. I'd be more likely leaning towards getting a local to fix or modify it for me to make it better, and then asking the maker to reimburse their time for the lack of proper completion on their part. Thanks!
shagpoke
Dec. 1st, 2014 04:48 am (UTC)
As a Canadian who sends makes hoodies and sends them in the mail, I'll throw in my experience about the postage cost. First I thought it added up, because there's no "standard air mail" service from Canada to the EU, Aus or New Zealand which is a reasonable price. So $120 for a hoodie sounded right... but that's through express post, which takes about a week and a half at most and is on-time guaranteed. If it was 4-8 weeks then it was sent surface mail, which absolutely does not cost anywhere near $120.
happy_radio
Dec. 1st, 2014 11:49 pm (UTC)
Do you have any sites or details I could confirm this on? As others mentioned below, I'll be checking on some sites to see what the estimated cost would be and comparing it to her shipping receipt if I can find a copy. Thanks.
shagpoke
Dec. 2nd, 2014 03:48 am (UTC)
Here's a PDF of Canadapost's pricing for individuals (I am a registered business so I have an account with them for slightly different pricing, but I'm assuming she's just using regular pricing)
http://www.canadapost.ca/tools/pg/prices/CPprices-e.pdf

Page 29 of the pdf (reads 25 on the page itself since title page etc isn't numbered) you'll see the rate codes for expresspost. That's what I use to send hoodies internationally. NZ is rate code 105. Then if you scroll down to the next page, you'll see the actual rates. It's broken down by weight but since costume items are light for their size "volumetric weight" usually takes over. Which means that if length x width x height in cm /6000 = more than the weight, then you use that number. Which say a hoodie fits in a box which is 30cm(12") on each side, the volumetric weight of that is going to be 4.5kg which is $133 on that chart. A hoodie should fit in a bit smaller box than that so $120 seems reasonable.

However, if you look at the delivery standards for expresspost, it's 4-7 business days guaranteed. If you live in the middle of nowhere it can sometimes be 8 or 9, but I've never experienced more than 7.

Next option is Intl air, which doesn't ship to NZ as you can see. Then you scroll down to find Intl surface, which I've never used personally. But for NZ's rate code (405 this time) for the same 4.5kg, which again is a bit higher than I'd assume it should be, you're looking at $81.45 Higher than I expected honestly, but still not $120.

I know that's a lot of words, but hopefully it helps since I know the chart can be a bit confusing.
If you have the shipping label on the package still it should say what service it was sent with. And usually it says the cost too if she's buying it in the post office.

Also, I didn't think of this before, but just because she put $500 for the worth of the item on customs (which shouldn't include shipping cost, that gets refunded on top of the item worth if the post loses it), that doesn't even mean it was insured for that. Insurance costs extra, $100 is included and then every $100 over that is an extra $2. So if she insured it for the full $500 that's another $8 or so that would be added to the shipping cost.

Also, fwiw the material cost seems way out of whack too. I mean, it doesn't really matter because at $220 that's still a really low price for a custom hoodie, but I find it weird that she broke it down into $110 for labour and $110 for materials.

Good luck with it, feel free to ask if you have any more post questions
happy_radio
Dec. 2nd, 2014 07:54 am (UTC)
Thanks for all of that!

So, I did some digging and I found the following:

Firstly, I did a postage rate calculator using the item's weight and box size (funnily enough, the weight and size are incorrect on the receipt she provided - a potential issue at the post office, and the extra weight is likely due to the pair of scissors she left in the box). Using this calculator, I've figured out these were my options:

Priority Worldwide (no ETA but it suggests super express) = $260.92
Xpresspost International (7 business days guaranteed) = $156.50
International Surface Parcel (4-6 weeks - which is what she bought) = $93.46

All of these figures included the fuel surcharges.

Now, I broke down her receipt as well for further info:

Package = $7.59
Surface Mailing Cost = $85.81
Fuel Surcharge = $6.44
HST = $0.99
(Postage Total = $92.25 - and with the HST it roughly equates to that $93 postage estimate as above)
$500 Insurance Coverage = $8.20


Total = $109.03

In other words:
$93.24 for the actual postage costs.
$7.59 for the package/packing costs.
$8.20 for the falsified insurance cost.

Regardless - I was overcharged $10.97 for the shipping, and if you include the false insurance claim, $19.17 total. Though this total is hard to drill down because there would have likely have been -some- insurance cost for the actual coverage of $220, the real item cost. Even playing it safe though, it'd still be around $15, surely. Not the biggest loss - but it's still $10-15 I've essentially had stolen from me.

Oh, but hang on. She tried to claim that I submitted my PayPal payment wrong - and that she was charged EXACTLY $9.27 for the PayPal fees, and tried to claim (even with a copy of the receipt attached) that the shipping cost was $110.73 - surprise surprise, exactly $120.

Now I'm not going to pretend like PayPal is a magical non-stealing fairy, because it is. However; all of my payments were made as payments, not gifts, in such a manner that she would not have been charged to receive the money. The only way she could be charged would be, I assume, withdrawing the money to her bank account. I dunno about Canada, but from personal experience of selling CDs through a music label - I don't get charged more than a few cents PayPal fees, and when I withdraw, I only get charged $1. Something seems fishy there.

So in any case, I've more or less been overcharged about $10-15 for the shipping. More to the point, it was almost double on the ETA. I've at least confirmed she bought the shipping method she claimed, but she "guesstimated" the total cost and blamed PayPal to get away with charging slightly more. Maybe this was a passive motion, or intentional, but it's wrong regardless.

As for the materials - I think you may be right; though my hoody is very different to the standards and has a lot of extra furry and solid material bits on it. I dunno what that would cost, but I think her "materials/labour split" was honestly just to cut it into two equal 50/50 payments. It'd be way too much effort to chase down material cost, as she likely had some material from similar hoodies prior to buying the remainder for mine. I won't chase that up over a few bucks.

I am - however - going to send them another message to ask for a response, and will point out the shipping issues as well. If I don't get a satisfactory reply, I will be chasing up further action from her and/or posting an official beware here.

Thanks for the assistance!
kattotang
Dec. 2nd, 2014 10:46 am (UTC)
"all of my payments were made as payments, not gifts, in such a manner that she would not have been charged to receive the money"

This...actually does charge people Paypal fees. Only gift payments are free to send. Payments for goods/services always have a fee of a set amount (something like 30 - 60 cents, depending on the country/currency exchange) plus a percentage, and if there is a currency conversion, there's also a fee for that (which is also a percentage).

So assuming the shipping + fuel costs totaled $110, then asking $120 to help cover fees could be about right. (One time I received a payment of £100, which got converted to USD on my end, and Paypal took about £8, which at the time was like $12 or something...so yeah, $10 for fees when there's a currency conversion isn't unbelievable.) And figuring in fees if the total amount they receive is purely to pay for shipping and such makes sense, since otherwise they'd have to help fund the cost of shipping from their own pocket...

But, having to pay an overly large extra customs fee due to them lying about the value of the package contents...that's just horrible. They've essentially made you pay for their fraudulent actions.

What a mess. I hope you can get it all sorted somehow. :\
happy_radio
Dec. 2nd, 2014 11:01 am (UTC)
Eh, you know what I meant. I sent it in whatever payment that charges -me- the fees, not them. If that's a gift payment, then that's what I used. I never select the option that makes them pay a fee. Just for clarity's sake. Regardless, there's no reason why there'd be $10 of fees unless she's doing something really weird with the money in transit.
celestinaketzia
Dec. 2nd, 2014 11:30 am (UTC)
Oh no, stop doing that! You're removing all protection you have as a buyer, and should you need to ever do a dispute Paypal will automatically side with the seller. It was a gift, not a payment in their eyes.

It's great to be thoughtful, however it'd be better to send a few extra bucks if you want to. The fees are tax deductible, so the artist sees them in the end.
kattotang
Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:19 pm (UTC)
No, I didn't know what you meant, since you weren't very clear. If you sent it as a gift option, then what Celestinaketzia said definitely applies--you really shouldn't do that.

And it's not "regardless" anyway, there can easily be $10 or more in fees for them if you're sending payment the correct way. As I've pointed out, I've had it happen to me, so I'm not just making this all up.

Sellers generally anticipate Paypal fees, so it's not unreasonable to take those fees into account when quoting a price for a payment that would be entirely for shipping. So, if she was expecting fees, then I could see her quoting a price to cover them (I'm just saying a best-case scenario here). But then she complained about fees, so I guess she wasn't expecting any? In which case that'd mean she overquoted the price, sure.

Either way, I still think the bigger picture is the fact that you had to pay a large customs fee because of their fraud.
kattotang
Dec. 2nd, 2014 08:28 pm (UTC)
Also, did you give them your address through PM or something then, or did they get it from Paypal when you paid them?
(Deleted comment)
chronidu
Dec. 1st, 2014 04:49 pm (UTC)
"No I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the attempted suicide story was a lie"

As a note, this kind of off handed comment is horrendously disrespectful, completely unnecessary, and completely unwarranted and non constructive in this situation.

There's a lot of insulting non constructive criticism in this comment but that one is crossing some serious lines.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
celestinaketzia
Dec. 2nd, 2014 11:28 am (UTC)
Mod Comment
Okay, I'm going to rein this in before it flutters further off topic!
teekchan
Dec. 1st, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
As a Canadian as well, I can confirm with shagpoke's pricing. Mail is extremely expensive here and I believe it's now almost $1 to send a letter in country. I don't mail anything because of our insane prices.

On the second. How large was the image? It's quite common for art to take over a month, especially for larger items. These images may have been taken before yours as well.
I'd ask to see their queue and if they seem to be actively avoiding yours, push for a refund, or a beware.
I could easily pump out 35+ chibis, but a large full image would take much, much longer. And I am also an artist that doesnt work in queue order. (Although I also dont scam people)
happy_radio
Dec. 1st, 2014 11:54 pm (UTC)
For the second, it was a simple piece. I just had my head/slight upper body and the others were just individual body parts (I.e. It's one of those "multiple dicks on a face" pieces, to be blunt). The art they've been doing since ranged from sketches, to lightly shaded small pieces, but is mostly comprised of full shaded and coloured headshots, waist ups, etc. In other words - nothing harder than my piece. Some were also gifts, as well.
sambeawesome
Dec. 1st, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
Not sure if this will help, but USPS has a shipping calculator if it was run through them: http://postcalc.usps.com/ 120$ sounds like a lot, even through Canada, I'd probably double check those prices. If it wasn't USPS, other companies may have similar calculators on their sites.

To be honest, I'd probably not trust them at all if they went so far as to commit fraud. I'd definitely try to get some kind of refund if possible, as others have mentioned, since it's a really subpar, as you've described.

Though if they're the type of person to commit fraud, I have a hard time imagining you'll be seeing any money back.

That mail fraud alone makes me wanna request that you put up a beware about them though, that's terrible :/

2nd Issue: If you wanna be strict, business is business. As unfortunate as their personal life may be, they made a commitment and should not have moved the money until they completed the work. (You never know when things may go wrong in your own personal life or with the commission, best to put the money aside until the process is finished.)

If it was me, unless I /really/ wanted the art and trusted that it would be completed in a timely manner, I'd just request the refund. It's not worth the struggle to try and get the art, especially if it's been about four months now with no progress update, not to mention their apparent personal problems.

I'm sorry things haven't been going well for you :c Good luck on everything!

*Edited spelling mistake, oops!

Edited at 2014-12-01 09:53 pm (UTC)
happy_radio
Dec. 2nd, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
As above, now that others are suggesting the cost is more than it should have been, I will be chasing it down and getting an accurate cost to confirm their $120 charge.

As for the second, I don't really want the art. It's now attached to a bunch of annoyance and I've stopped talking to two of the other three involved in the piece. The issue is, they're basically refusing to refund me on the grounds they "won't have the money for months". I don't need or care about the money, I'm just apathetic towards the image now. But I'm also sympathetic towards them as much as it may or may not be a bunch of nonsense. I think in both cases I'm going to give just a little more time for a result before posting a beware up, I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt.
ramthedragon
Dec. 1st, 2014 11:12 pm (UTC)
I second the A_B because of the overcharging through customs. MY country is super strict about values allowed into the country and I know trying to get something out of customs is a really stressful ordeal. And the finished product was subpar as well? I think a beware is more than allowed here.

I think you should try for some sort of refund, at least enough to cover having the hoodie altered so you can wear it.

As far as the YCH goes, artists have their lives and their ups and downs, but I always find the guilt tripping a little unecessary, as well as offering more art to make up for the art they haven't yet produced. Maybe approach them letting them know you would be ok with a refund and relieve them from the stress of finishing a picture they clearly have no interest in doing.
happy_radio
Dec. 2nd, 2014 12:38 am (UTC)
As above, I plan to see if anyone local can fix it, get a quote perhaps, and see if the artist will reimburse for that. I'm also chasing up the postage later tonight. As for the YCH, I'll give them a little bit longer before I request yet again for an outcome. Thanks!
spiffystuff
Dec. 4th, 2014 04:58 am (UTC)
Just gonna chime in - on the face of it $120 for shipping sounded like a lot, but it seems like it checks out per your math - whenever I shipped with more expensive or complicated shipping I would round up on the cost because it would inevitably cost time to figure things out, gas for supplies, etc etc. So rounding from $110 to $120 doesn't sound crazy.

The overstated value that socked you with another huge fee is redic. I can only imagine they thought it worked like insurance; again never having collected insurance, it doesn't seem unreasonable to round up some to account for the hassle should the item be lost (and I don't know if one can assume the shipping fees would be refunded if the item were lost or not). But that doesn't fly if it costs you such a huge amount of money! (seriously I am boggling at these postage prices and customs fees...) The moment you pointed it out they should have apologized and corrected it.
I learned something too from the comments; that you have to have proof of sale and they will only reimburse for that :P
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